Eyebrows were raised. Diplomats looked at each other in disbelief. Were they really hearing Israel’s top diplomat suggest that they start quoting the Bible in defense of Israel?
Likud lawmaker Tzipi Hatovely had just cited 11th century Bible commentator Rashi’s first commentary on the first verse in the Torah to incoming Foreign Ministry employees.
“In the beginning, Hashem created the heavens and the earth.” – Genesis 1:1
Rashi (paraphrased) asks in the name of Rabbi Isaac: Why does the Torah begin with the creation of the world? Shouldn’t it have started with the very first commandment of counting the months? After all Torah, as its name suggests, is about hora’ah – instruction. The Torah is foremost a book of laws, an instruction manual on how to live our lives, not a book of stories or history. So why then begin with creation of the world?
Rashi answers: For if the nations of the world should say to Israel, “You are robbers, for you conquered by force the lands of the seven nations [of Canaan],” they will reply, “The entire earth belongs to the Holy One, blessed be He; He created it (this we learn from the story of the Creation) and gave it to whomever He deemed proper. When He wished, He gave it to them, and when He wished, He took it away from them and gave it to us.
“Of course the world understands Israel’s security needs, but arguments of ethics and justice will trump security arguments,” Hatovely said, urging Israeli diplomats serving abroad to reiterate the Jewish people’s right to the entire land of Israel.
“The time has come to tell the world that we’re right – not only smart.”
The diplomats were shocked. And for good reason.
“It’s the first time anyone has asked us to use verses from the Torah for public diplomacy abroad,” one diplomat was quoted as saying.
Recently, when a Muslim-American girl came with her university’s imam to Jerusalem on a program to learn about Israel and the Jewish story as it relates to Israel, she had an epiphany.
“So what you’re really saying is that you’re here not because of the Holocaust? You’re here because you have an ancient connection to this land? Did I get that right?”
The Muslim girl was shocked. And for good reason.
The story that Israel has promulgated is that we need a country as a refuge from persecution. That the State of Israel was a necessary safe-haven after the Holocaust. And for that reason all subsequent arguments are based on security alone; all negotiations on “defensible borders.”
Last Thursday the New York Time’s dropped a bomb in an article entitled Historical Certainty Proves Elusive at Jerusalem’s Holiest Place: Nobody can say for certain whether there was a Jewish Temple on the Temple Mount.
Many Jewish writers are up in arms:
- How dare they! This is journalistic malpractice! They are assisting anti-Semitism. Let’s boycott, divest and sanction the paper.
- It must have been a mistake! They must have meant to say nobody can say for certain where the Temple stood, not whether the Temple stood. (After all the NYT did issue such a correction and did publish a letter to the editor by one of the specialists interviewed for the piece.)
- No, the NYT just hates Israel and they’ll stop at nothing to delegitimize them! The correction is too little, too late.
Yes, many Jews are shocked. But without good reason.
That a New York Times reporter and editor of the foreign desk could pen an article with the sole purpose of questioning one of the least questionable things in all of history – and with such utter nonchalance! – has less to do with their biases and Arab propaganda and more to do with the story that Israel itself has told for way too long.
And the oldest story they haven’t been telling at all.